Philippines sees boom in mining sector in 2008

Philippines sees boom in mining sector in 2008

The Philippines’ long dormant mining sector is on the verge of taking off, with five of the world’s largest firms joining the rush to dig the country’s untapped mineral wealth, a senior official said on Thursday.

Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Angelo Reyes said he expected a mining boom in the country in 2008, despite the opposition of powerful Catholic bishops and environment groups to large-scale mining by foreign investors.

“The major players are now here, and their investments indicate increased confidence of global mining investors in the Philippines,” Reyes said in a statement.

“This marks a significant takeoff for the industry and, if sustained, we can well anticipate a mining boom starting next year.”

Reyes said keen interest in the Philippine mining sector had become apparent in the presence of the world’s top miners BHP Billiton Ltd./Plc. , Anglo-American Plc. and Xstrata Plc. .

Other big players in the Philippines included Canada’s Chemical Vapour Metal Refining Inc. (CVMR) and Phelps Dodge Corp. .

Last week, Reyes said he had approved an exploration permit of local firm Manila Mining Corp. after being informed that it was in joint venture talks with a unit of Anglo American to explore its Bayugo copper-gold prospect in the southern Philippines.

Bayugo is adjacent to the Boyongan copper deposit, located in Surigao del Norte province, which is planned to be developed by Anglo American and local partner Philex Mining Corp. .

“Together, Bayugo and Boyongan would make another world-class gold-copper project that should further firm up the Philippines’ place in the world mining map,” Reyes said.

The government’s Mines and Geosciences Bureau previously said the Boyongan lode had an estimated ore reserve of 300 million tonnes with 0.6 percent copper and 1 gram per tonne of gold.

Last month, Xstrata said it would exercise an option to acquire a majority stake in a project in the south, potentially one of the largest copper and gold deposits in Southeast Asia.

The deposit in the Tampakan region of the island of Mindanao is estimated to contain 11.6 million tonnes of copper and 14.6 million ounces of gold, according to Australia-listed Indophil Resources NL .

The Tampakan project will require $2 billion to go into commercial production, Reyes said.

He said Canada’s CVMR planned to invest in a nickel processing and refinery project while Phelps Dodge has firmed up its interest to bid for the development of the Batong Buhay copper-gold project in Kalinga in the north.

BHP Billiton, in partnership with local mining companies, is exploring nickel deposits.

Source: Reuters

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